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Current Issue Article Abstracts

April 2017  Vol. 78.2

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Girolamo Cardano and Julius Caesar Scaliger in Debate about Nature’s Musical Secrets

Jacomien Prins

This article examines the theories of the power of ancient music and the superiority of the sense of hearing proposed by Girolamo Cardano in his De subtilitate and Julius Caesar Scaliger’s critique of these views in his Exercitationes exotericae de subtilitate. Despite Scaliger’s rejection of Cardano’s claim that he had successfully revealed the "subtle" nature of the sense of hearing and the innate harmony between music and the passions, both thinkers are shown to conduct their debate in one and the same inherited discourse in which new theories were shaped about music, what it does, or what it should do.

Zilsel’s Thesis, Maritime Culture, and Iberian Science in Early Modern Europe

Henrique Leitão, Antonio Sánchez

Zilsel’s thesis on the artisanal origins of modern science remains one of the most original proposals about the emergence of scientific modernity. We propose to inspect the scientific developments in Iberia in the early modern period using Zilsel’s ideas as a guideline. Our purpose is to show that his ideas illuminate the situation in Iberia but also that the Iberian case is a remarkable illustration of Zilsel’s thesis. Furthermore, we argue that Zilsel’s thesis is essentially a sociological explanation that cannot be applied to isolated cases; its use implies global events that involve extended societies over large periods of time.

Spinoza’s Life: 1677–1802

Wiep van Bunge

Immediately after Spinoza’s death in 1677 his first biographers framed a life which would play an important part in the eighteenth-century perception of the Dutch philosopher. Bayle’s entry on Spinoza in the Dictionnaire in particular, together with Jelles’s preface to the Opera posthuma, created the image of a philosopher whose dedication to philosophy was unconditional and whose moral behavior was impeccable. Despite the general hostility which Spinoza’s views continued to meet, his life appears to have contributed considerably to the gradual rediscovery of his works during the dying decades of the eighteenth century, most notably in Germany and the Netherlands.

Leopold Zunz and the Meanings of Wissenschaft

Amos Bitzan

When Jewish historians narrate the history of their field, they often point to Leopold Zunz (1794–1886) as its founder. My article challenges the notion that Zunz’s early understanding of Wissenschaft was primarily historical. Reconstructing the meaning of Wissenschaft for Zunz in its context, I argue that it was more philosophical than historical and closely linked to an ideal of character formation. Zunz’s view of Wissenschaft reveals the ways in which German idealist philosophy, neo-Humanist manifestos, and a Romantic religious reform agenda could produce a scientific interest in the human past that seems at odds with central tenets of historicism.

John Rawls in Light of the Archive: Introduction to the Symposium on the Rawls Papers

Mark Bevir

This symposium calls attention to the archival papers of the political philosopher John Rawls. As the symposium papers show, the archive illuminates the development of Rawls’s philosophical and political visions, showing the varied intellectual traditions on which he drew. The papers portray Rawls as a naturalist who believed that moral and political arguments should be made in light of facts about natural human capacities and propensities. The papers explore Rawls’s engagement with Wittgenstein, Dewey, and game theory. And the papers present conflicting accounts of Rawls’s democratic society and the role of democratic debate in the justification of a political vision.

Rawls on Philosophy and Democracy: Lessons from the Archived Papers

David A. Reidy

Drawing from Rawls’s archived papers, I explore a few of the basic relationships between philosophy and democracy framing Rawls’s political philosophy.

“The Latest Invasion from Britain”: Young Rawls and His Community of American Ethical Theorists

P. MacKenzie Bok

This piece shows how other archives can complement the Rawls Papers at Harvard by reconstructing Rawls’s community of ethical theorists in the 1950s and early 1960s. It casts new light on Rawls’s early immersion in the nascent movement of American Wittgensteinianism at Cornell, and traces his involvement in a transatlantic group of philosophers doing “analytic ethics” with an emphasis on inductive logic in order to rebut the “emotive theory.” It further illustrates how the willingness of Rawls and his contemporaries to question “the naturalistic fallacy” laid the groundwork for Rawls to build his own mature moral theory on natural foundations.

This article sheds light on John Rawls’s views on John Dewey’s philosophical temperament by investigating unpublished papers and lectures that Rawls wrote and delivered across the late 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s. Moreover, the article shows that Rawls’s rejection of Kant’s dualisms predates by at least three decades the “Dewey Lectures” (1980) and that Dewey’s notion of deliberation as “dramatic rehearsal in imagination” might have had an impact on Rawls’s development of the notion of “reflective equilibrium” as a state of affairs that we strive to reach in ethical reflection.


Andrius Gališanka

I explore the influence of game theory on the political philosopher John Rawls as a way of analyzing the character of his democratic thought. Recent narratives bring Rawls closer to direct democracy as a result of game theory’s influence. I argue that game theory prompted creative, organic developments in Rawls’s political framework rather than shaping it. It prompted Rawls to emphasize autonomy and fairness, leading him to the analogy between a just society and a fair game. And it prompted thought experiments that analyzed our considered judgments. This was an idealized analysis unconnected to the vision of direct democracy.